Wednesday, April 30, 2014

2014 Headphone Shootout Part 3: Wireless

In this years Headphone Shootout, due too the high demand, we have a new category: wireless. Wireless gives you better freedom, hence the rise in popularity. And we have some great models represented. They are the BeeWi BBH300 with a MSRP of $150, the JBL Synchros S400BT for $230 MSRP, and the Velodyne vBold with $350 MSRP.

The BeeWi BBH300 had a nice looking box with photos of the device, its specs, and magnetic cover that allowed you to open and see the headphones. They were mostly plastic in materials, with soft leather earpads. Quality of materials was good, as was the fit and finish. They were more of an on the ear design. Also included was a hard zipper case, airplane adaptor, 1/4" adapter, multiple cables, and a docking station. And they were pretty comfortable to wear.

Features and Specs:
Audio Specifications 
Driver36 mm
Frequency range20Hz to 20000Hz
Impedance32 Ohm
Sensitivity100dB SPL max
General Specifications  
Bluetooth Range 10 meter / 33 feet
Battery Life 18h play / 80h stand by
Color available white / black
AccessoriesRoad-case, international power adapter, 80 cm Audio Cable, Airplane adapter...
I was surprised with all you get for the price with the BeeWi BBH300. It is quite the unique product. It came with a regular cable so you can listen to non Bluetooth sources. But what was really cool was the docking station. You can use it to charge the headphones, but that's not all. It can also connect to a surround sound receiver, and allow your receiver to play wireless content.

Listening to the BeeWi BBH300 was a different story.  Pairing Bluetooth devices can yield mixed results.  Some are more difficult to pair than others.  This model seemed to be one of those products.  I was unable to pair with 2 headphones, but was successful with my laptop.  And while there is a cable included that would allow listening to them with a standard wired device, you may not want to.  They sounded ok when used wirelessly, but sound quality takes a big hit when using them wired.  And they were good for around 20 feet before you would get drops in audio.

Listening wired:
Fresh Aire: Creatures of Levania sounded warm and oddly filtered/muffled with a lack of highs.  Bass was there and had some depth but not much authority.  The flute was there but did not have a lot of resolution and sounded far away.  Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, the clarinet sounded somewhat natural as did the horns, but they all sounded distant.  Imaging was ok.  The cymbals had some crispness to them.  Junior Wells: Why Are People Like That, vocals sounded natural yet distance and recessed, almost like performing without a mic.  The harmonica sounded natural with ok resolution.  Justin Timberlake: Sexyback, bass was there and punchy in the upper midbass and again sounded recessed and had little depth or output.  Vocals were again recessed and distant with the lead singer.  Guitar sounded clear. 

Listening wireless:
Fresh Aire: Creatures of Levania, bass had nice extension and good output and authority.  Flute had good air with ok resolution.  The strings also sounded natural.  Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue clarinet sounded natural and only slightly distant.  Imaging was ok as was the size of the soundstage.  Horns and piano sounded natural.  Junior Wells: Why Are People Like That, vocals were sufficiently natural as was the harmonica.  The bass guitar had good extension and played with authority.  Imaging was also good.  Justin Timberlake: Sexyback, had nice bass extension and depth, and played with very good impact and authority.  Vocals sounded natural with some resolution.  Imaging was good again.  Sound was much better wireless than they were wired.

Next up is the JBL Synchros S400BT. The JBL Synchros for a more traditional DJ style over the ear headphone design.  The earpads were leather wrapped and over the ear design.  Only the left earcup also had touch controls on the exterior.  They were also a CES Innovations Award Honoree for 2014.

The JBL Synchros S400BT came in the traditional attractive looking box with pics of the headphones and their specs. Opening the box revealed a semi-hard zipper case, which housed the headphones. Also included was the owners manual, and cables. One cable was for charging, while the other was for listening to a standard non-wireless device. The construction comprised of both plastic and metal, with soft leather earcups, which also swiveled and folded for portability and convenience. Fit and finish and the quality of materials used was very good. They felt solid and very durable as well. They were very comfortable to wear. I also liked the interior pocket of the case, to hold the manual and cables.

Features and Specs:
General Specifications
Rated Power Input
Audio Specifications
Frequency Response
10Hz – 22kHz
Maximum SPL
115dB @ 30mW
Speaker Specifications
Premium 40mm drivers
Depth (in)
Depth (mm)
Height (in)
Height (mm)
Width (in)
Width (mm)
Product Features
JBL Professional Audio Sound with PureBass Performance and aptX encoding.
Sound modeled after industry leading JBL professional audio speakers delivers a balanced audio experience with amazing clarity and deep powerful bass, while advanced aptX encoding lets you experience the highest possible wireless sound quality available.
Bluetooth® 3.0 wireless freedom with innovative touch sensor controls and NFC technology simplify the user experience.
Wireless technology liberates you from the hassles of wires, while NFC technology on the right outer earcup simplifies the Bluetooth pairing process. The innovative touch sensor controls on the left earcup enable you to advance tracks, adjust volume, and play or pause your music, as well as take your calls – all with an easy swipe of your finger anywhere along the earcup’s surface.
Unique LED Lighting Feature
A unique LED lighting feature responds intuitively to every adjustment made to your headphones’ touch sensor control system, following the direction that you swipe your finger across the earcup.

Using the JBL Synchros S400BT was very easy.  I was able to very easily pair them to both my laptop and 2 cell phones.  Controlling them with a swipe of  finger for volume, tracks, play/pause, etc. was also easy and worked well.  They also sounded the same whether I was listening with or without the cord.  When it came to distance, I also got these to a little over 20 feet before I started to have drops in signal.  It was a little shorter than I was expecting, but they sounded great. 

Fresh Aire:  Creatures of Levania, had very good bass extension and output with good authority.  Flute sounded natural with very good resolution and air, with audible tonguing and texture.  Imaging was very good, and the strings were smooth.  Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, clarinet was natural and really clean with very good resolution.  Brass was smooth without being too brassy.  Piano sounded very natural.  The soundstage was big with very good imaging as well.  Junior Wells: Why Are People Like That, excellent low bass from the bass guitar and played with good authority.  Vocals were natural with excellent texture.  Harmonica was really clean, dynamic, with excellent harmonics.  The percussion was crisp, and the soundstage was big.  Justin Timberlake: Sexyback had very good bass extension, impact, and authority.  Imaging was also very good.  Vocals were smooth, with excellent timbre, resolution, and dynamics.

Last but not least is the Velodyne vBold, bluetooth wireless over-ear reference headphones. Velodyne has been known for their excellent home theater subwoofers. In recent years they have come into the headphone market and have people taking notice. The vBold are a rather large over the ear design.

Features and Specs:
Make a statement. vBold®Our wireless headphones offer Bluetooth® connectivity compatible with your iPhone®, iPod Touch®, iPad® or any Bluetooth® capable device. Wireless sound reproduction is accurate and true thanks to aptX® coding. A direct connect audio cable is included for optional wired connection.

Collapsible design
In addition to the convenience of being wireless, the vBold can be folded up for compact storage. Now you can bring Velodyne’s legendary audio technology with you anywhere you go.

Signature style
International artist, Marta Hall, created the signature style and shape of the vBold. You get the best in style with Velodyne’s accurate and true sound experience.

Built-in rechargeable battery
The vBold features a built-in rechargeable battery that allows for 10+ hours of talk and music listening time. A micro USB charging cable is included for charging your headphone.

• Outstanding wireless sound quality utilizing apt-X® coding
• Bluetooth® v2.1 connectivity with >30 foot range
• Near Field Communication (NFC) Technology
• Intuitive controls
• High-quality microphone for phone & online video games
• Energy efficient design with exceptional battery life
• Collapsible design for easy storage
• Available in 2 stylish colors: Matte Black & Satin Silver

• 4 foot, 3.5 mm (3/8") audio bypass cable
• 1/8" to 1/4" plug adapter
• Micro USB charging cable
• Carrying pouch

Driver size: 40 mm
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 105 dB/1 kHz/1 mW
Impedance: 32Ω
Frequency range: 2.4Ghz – 2.4835GHz
Transmission range: Up to 10 m (33’)
Power: Lithium-ion polymer battery, 3.7V/430mAh (rechargeable)
Operating temperature: 0 C – 40 C
Supports Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, A2DP v1.2, AVRCP v1.0, HSP v1.2, HFP v1.6
Supports codecs SBC, AAC, apt-X

Battery Specifications:
100 hours standby
10 hours talk and music
1.5 hours recharge time

The box is a more premium glossy print look with pics of the headphones, and their features. Opening the box revealed the headphones, along with a simple card with instructions. Also included were a cloth carrying case, and two cables. One cable was for charging, and the other was for listening to standard non-wireless devices. Materials used in construction were mostly plastic, with soft leather earpads. While they appeared to be plastic, the finish seemed to have more of a soft feel to it. Quality of materials used were very good, as was the fit and finish. They felt durable as well, but not quite as durable as the JBL's. They were also very comfortable to wear.

Like the JBL's, the Velodyne vBold was very easy to pair with my cell phones and laptop.  Controlling it with the hard buttons was very easy and worked well.  Having hard buttons may not be as elegant looking as using touch controls, but I preferred it.  The real shocker was the Bluetooth performance of the built-in radio.  I'm skeptical to say, because it could be just a fluke with the one that I received, but here is what I found.  When testing the range, I got the 20 foot mark where the others started to have drops and I just kept walking.  I was testing it in my home, for real world situations.  I was down stairs, and ended up walking past the 20 feet mark and kept walking into my kitchen.  It was still going.  I then opened my patio door and walked into the back yard.....still going with no drops yet!  I turned around in awe, and went back inside.  I then walked all around my house, in other rooms, closing doors, even taking them upstairs and walked all around upstairs....still no drops!  I can't see anyone needing more than that, but I wanted to see just what they could do.  So I took my paired cell phone and set it on my front porch, and started to walk down the street.  I finally started to get dropped over 250 feet!!!  I turned around and got signal back, and walking back I got dropped signal again when I was about 100 feet away from my phone.  Amazing!!!  Like I said, I may have just gotten lucky, but that's what I got.

Fresh Aire: Creatures of Levania, had nice low bass output.  The flute was really clean with excellent air and resolution.  The strings were smooth.  Gershwin:  Rhapsody in Blue, had clean clarinet that had very good woodiness and texture.  The brass was smooth.  The soundstage was huge with imaging that was very good.  Percussion was crisp and dynamic with no noticeable decay, and the piano sounded natural.  Junior Wells: Why Are People Like That, vocals sounded excellent with good resolution and texture.  Harmonica was really clean and dynamic.  The drums had good impact and midbass.  Justin Timberlake: Sexyback, had nice deep bass that hit hard with good impact and authority.  Vocals sounded natural with very good detail and texture, and was very dynamic.  Imaging was also very good.  The sound was very good overall like reference headphones should sound, and the bass output was what I was expecting from a name like Velodyne.

All in all, we have some good wireless products, based on the MSRP.  The BeeWi BBH300 was only $150 and gave a lot of functionality with the included docking station.  While sound was just "ok," you have to also realize that part of the money for that goes into the docking station and wireless functionality.  The sound was not the same when listening wired, but they are more ment for use wirelessly.  The JBL Synchos S400BT had the performance I was expecting from JBL.  The same can also be said about the Velodyne vBold.  Based on their design, features, quality, and performance, the JBL Synchos S400BT has earned our Highly Recommended Award, and the Velodyne vBold has earned our Editor's Choice Award.  For more features and complete specs check out their websites at,, and

This completes this year's Headphone Shootout.  We had some great products from some just as good manufactures.  And the wireless category was fun.  Most products were priced right and performed as expected based on their MSPR.  However there were some, such as the Velodyne vBold that really surprised, with their wireless performance.  Hopefully this gave some great ideas on some purchase decisions.  Happy Listening!